Many of you know that the World Cup soccer tournament is taking place in South Africa these days. Soccer is the most popular sport in Israel as well as in the rest of the world. Many people are taking days off from their jobs in order to watch the games. A few years ago, the games were played in a time zone that wasn't so convenient for watching, but it didn't matter. People still woke up at 2 or 3 in the morning to watch them and then went back to sleep after they were over.
During this World Cup, we were concerned that this would cause people to neglect coming to church, so we decided to invite our church family, both young and old, to join together after the worship service to watch the game together. It was so fun to see people wildly cheering for their favorite teams, but at the same time fellowshipping in love with one another.
As a church, we need to always recognize the interests of the people and to use those things for reaching out to them. Our community is becoming more and more selfish and independent. Everyone spends his time at his computer or watching his TV at home alone. These kinds of activities bring people together as one body to fellowship together.
"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves" (Philippians 2:1-3).
God Turns Disaster into a Blessing
Last month a young engaged couple of the ages 18 and 24 died in a tragic car accident. Relatives of this family are part of our congregation. The father of the young lady who died was not a believer. For three days he and his wife were in their home crying over the death of their daughter. On the third day the father and his wife were grieving and broken. He asked God for forgiveness for his sins and he repented. He asked God for a sign that He had answered his prayers and forgiven him. Suddenly a small light appears in his room. A huge cloud filled the room and suddenly the light spread to two lights that moved around the room. The lights left behind tails of light. He was scared when he saw the huge light. His wife shouted " do you see what i see?" "What do you see?" "I see the light" "I see the same thing!"
The light came to their faces and it touched them. They felt heat from the light. They began to worship and they were comforted. He now testifies, "I have joy in my heart. The joy of the Lord filled me." Since then, when people from the community, muslims and christians, visit this family they say they feel the presence of God. Many have come to the church as a result of their witness.
The New Covenant Church celebrated Christmas and New Year on 27.12.2009 in our new building. The celebration included a variety of programs and many talents: dances by the little children, Christmas carols, poems and the finale was a one man comedy show.
A few women from the church prepared a unique dinner, and after the celebration everyone went to the church fellowship hall and ate dinner together.
Santa Claus gave presents to the children and some elders of the church.
On 12/12/2009 the New Covenant Church hosted a Christmas celebration led by the musical team “Alrab Rayati”(The Lord Is My Banner). There were more than 450 people gathered together in the church praising and worshiping God.
Pastor Yousef Dakwar opened the celebration with a short prayer, wishing everyone Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. The host, Gasan Ode, from the evangelical church in Kafar-yasif led the program which included Christmas carols, worship songs and some reading from the Bible.
The team “Alrab Rayati” with their Pastor Khaled Dalle preformed the songs in a unique and special way, which made everyone enjoy the celebration.
Some of the songs were choreographed with dancing by the group “Kings Kids." and The “Bells Team” led by Fadi Hana, performed 3 Christmas songs, using special bells.
For the first time, Cross Media broadcast the Christmas celebration video live on the internet.
The New Covenant Church led a feeding project in Haifa on the 10.11.2009, joined by Christian groups both from abroad and from all around the country. The project was performed under the name “Love Haifa.” It was a social program designed to give the needy families in the city of Haifa their basic supplies.
The packages were delivered to more than 170 needy families without regards to their ethnic, racial or religious background.
The mayor of Haifa, Yona Yahav, welcomed the idea and gave support in every way he could, insuring that the program would succeed. The social department in the municipality of Haifa municipality provided a list with the names of the most needy families, and invited them to the center were the packages were delivered, insuring the people that there would be privacy and secrecy.
There were more than 50 volunteers from the country and out of the country who helped prepare the packages and deliver them to the needy families.
Pastor Yousef said, “the purpose of this event is to encourage the church to participate in social projects and reach out to the community around them, no matter what background they come from. We are the salt of the earth, which is why we need to be moving among our community, showing the love of Christ through our life and actions.
He continues to say, "the purpose of the project is not to evangelize the people. We do not need to use the weakness and needs of the people to lead them to Christ. Instead, they need to make the decision of following Jesus when they are physically, emotionally and intellectually sound and settled."
Some people from the municipality of Haifa came to the center and were amazed how the project was organized, and how efficiently the supplies were given to the people. One of the families who received the supplies shared, “we are a needy family and our situation is very bad. We go to many official and governmental centers to get supplies and what we received there is bad treatment and supplies that were expired. But what we see here is something different. The way the volunteers welcome us and smile at us is something we are not used to.”
The land of Israel is recently enjoying the rains that are now falling after a long, hot summer. My thoughts go to the story of Elijah who prayed, waited and expected God to send rain. He sent his servant to look for rain time after time. Finally, the servant reported to Elijah that he saw a small cloud as small as a man's hand rising from the sea. They knew that this small cloud would bring great rains. Just like the prophet who walked this area thousands of years ago, we too are praying, expecting and waiting for a spiritual rain to come and bring life-giving water to hearts, people and a land that is dry and thirsty. Just as the rains are surely coming now in their season, we believe God will rain down His spirit on us... Because He Is Faithful.
"A cloud as small as a man's hand is rising from the sea." 1 Kings 18.44
The youth ministry is flourishing at NCC. It is vital that we reach and care for the booming youth population of our world; they are the future of our society and the church. At NCC we have two youth outreach teams, one for the younger set, led by Venise Mk'abal, and one for the "fifteens" and above, led by Christine Dakwar.
Recently each youth team enjoyed an overnight event at the church building. It was an amazing spiritual encounter for the youth, not to mention a lot of fun. There were times of talking, eating together, movies, etc. And, there was a great move of the Spirit on our youth as they prayed, cried out to God, and worshipped. Many made serious commitments of faith to the Lord, many renewed their commitments and were filled with the Spirit. The only thing that was missing from the event seems to have been sleep!
Last month, the NCC body, packed on to two huge busses, went on a mini-tour of Jerusalem and environs. Besides the simple purpose of building up relationships and "togetherness" the goal was to expose our people to the heritage of the Land. So often the local believers miss out on the richness of the biblical history and geography that surrounds us, a heritage that is ours both as residents of Israel and the people of Messiah. Our travels took us to locations such as Jerusalem, the Mt. of Olives, the Garden Tomb, and the Dead Sea region.
One Year Anniversary:
On October 11, 2009 NCC celebrated one year in our new premises! Looking back on the dedication service of Fall 2008, we are humbled by God's gracious presence with us and we look ahead with great expectation to the future. The joy of our celebration service was greatly enhanced by the participation of international friends from the U.S., Canada, Singapore, and Finland who all (through no strategy of our own) happened to visit us precisely on this anniversary service! Pastor Yousef challenged us that in view of all God has given us in the year past, we must look to the year ahead asking what we can give back to Him.
SITTING AT JESUS' FEET -- We have been led by the Spirit and believe that this is the time to invest in the maturity and discipleship of our congregation. July 15 we began 8 home groups that are studying the book of James from the Joy of Living series that we translated into Arabic. The people are blessed and excited to invest in their spiritual growth.
At the same time we received 47,000 books on church development in Arabic from a dear ministry in Canada. We distributed these books to 45 different churches around the country.
Reconciled In Christ -- July 25th the New Covenant Church and the Messianic Carmel Assembly gathered together for a joint meeting. Pastor Yousef preached during the service. Everyone stayed for fellowship after the service for a barbeque picnic. How blessed to see Jews and Arabs gathered at one table eating, celebrating and enjoying God's unity. This is what our country needs! A living testimony of transformed hearts in Christ.
SOCIAL AWARENESS LECTURES -- May 6th The New Covenant Church hosted a lecture by Dr. Yuval Shamshum, a known sociologist and expert on the topic of the risks and effects of drugs and smoking. These vices have taken on epidemic proportions in our area and in our city, especially among the youth. We felt that we had a responsibility to educate the congregation about these dangers.
Fadi... came to the church one and a half years ago from a background of violence and crime. God softened the heart of this young man. He became a dedicated follower of Christ. He influenced his family to accept the Lord too.
Steve... just finished his B.A. degree in Theology. And Rana is one of our media ministry workers. They have taken the decision to serve God together as a family.
A Heart to Reach the Unreached -- These days we feel that God is pushing the church in Israel to go out and touch people. In the last month churches from all over the country have gathered and united to reach the unsaved with the gospel of Christ. It started with the Back To Jerusalem conference under the cover of Life Agape. It continued with an outreach in every city and village. The Jesus film from the perspective of Mary Magdalene was projected in many locations. Thousands came to Haifa to celebrate the catholic feast of Elijah, the prophet. Churches cooperated to give tracks and to share the gospel with those who came.
The year of 2009 is a season of development for the NCC leadership team and the congregation. We are focusing our efforts and energy on discipleship, spiritual growth and maturity. We want to be a blessing to all our community and to this land.
New Discipleship Program -- Starting in June we are beginning discipleship groups. Everyone in our church will take part of a group and have the opportunity to systematically study books of the Bible - starting with the book of James. We know that each person will grow in the knowledge and image of Christ through the study and through the interaction with others in the body of Christ.
Leadership Training Classes -- Our leadership team is meeting weekly to study principles of leadership in pioneering with Dr. Jack Park. Dr. Park is a minister with 40 years of experience.
A Place of Worship -- Our new building has become a local place of worship and prayer. Local ministries use the NCC building for concerts and prayer meetings.
Projects -- We have completed the room for new mothers and babies in our church. There will be TV monitors for the mothers to watch the service as they care for their babies. This facility is completed just in time as there are several new babies in our congregation.
Baptism -- This weekend we baptized 12 people from NCC. It was a beautiful picture of God's mercy and grace. People came from all backgrounds - different faiths, different ages, and different circumstances. There were many who made recent commitments of faith in Jesus Christ. There were youth who have been believers for a few years but have just decided to take the step of baptism as a sign of their faith. Our church rejoiced with each one of them. Please pray for these precious believers.